Why Brad Pitt Gives Angelina a Better Chance of Beating Cancerby Melissa Wall on May 16, 2013
Perhaps you’ve heard that Angelina Jolie recently had a double mastectomy. (Ok, you’ve definitely heard that Angelina Jolie recently had a double mastectomy.) The actress underwent the surgery to decrease her chances of developing breast cancer — the same disease that killed her mother in her ’50s. According to Jolie’s op-ed in the New York Times, her doctors told her she had an estimated 87% chance of getting breast cancer, as well as a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. As such, rather than wait for the very likely event that she develop a tumor, she went ahead with the life-changing procedure.
Rich and famous actress or no, there is one thing that is beyond debate about Jolie’s experience: it’s very hard to sit in a doctor’s office and hear that you have a near-90% chance of getting cancer (the same cancer that killed your mother) unless you undergo major surgery.
Throughout the press explosion over the issue, Jolie has made one thing clear –that she has had complete unwavering support from her longterm partner, Brad Pitt.
The whole story is made sexier and far more public by the fact that these are two of the biggest celebrities in the world, but the effects of a supportive partner during a serious illness are real, whether you’re a movie star or not. Plenty of studies point to the “overall health effects” of being in a longterm partnership, but when it comes to a health crisis, the benefits get very specific. A 2011 study found that men diagnosed with cancer had a 35% lower chance of dying from it if they were married. Another found that married people who had coronary-artery bypass surgery were 2.5 times more likely to be alive 15 years later than unmarried people. A 2012 study of lung cancer treatment found that 33% of married patients were still alive after three years, compared to 10% of singles, with women faring better than men.
Of course there are all sorts of variables and scenarios that can affect whether or not being married makes a difference in one specific case or another. But the idea that having another person there for you, supporting you and staying deeply invested in whether or not you make it, is something that makes a profound difference to people facing serious illnesses. At its core, this is why we partner up for life (or at least, try to), despite all the biological impulses that seem to push us away from lifelong commitment to 1 person. A human life will involve hardship, pain, and illness. Having someone by your side to help you endure and overcome whatever shows up down the path — that is really what partnership is about. Brad Pitt didn’t create this health benefit to partnership, but he’s certainly illustrating it for the rest of us.